Thursday, October 22, 2020

What I've Been Reading

"The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides. I've heard talk about this movie and new the basic premise (ugh its in the name) but didn't know much about it. I picked it up kind of randomly. The most interesting thing about this book was it's narrated in a "collective we". It's a bunch of neighborhood boys who you don't learn most of their names and they kind of function like one singular entity. I think it really works for this book and the type of story that this is. It's a short book and considering the subject matter isn't as depressing as I thought it would be.

"Time Traveler: A Scientist's Dream to Make Time Travel a Reality" by Dr Ronald L Mallet. A young man loses his father at 10 years old and becomes obsessed with the idea of time travel. He doesn't become a quack on the streets, he has a PhD and loves Einstein and has spoke to thousands about if time travel is actually a thing we can accomplish.

"The Devil All the Time" by Donald Ray Pollock.  This book kind of sounded like it was going to be a short story collection but really it was just a regular format book with a lot of interconnected stories. I really liked the format and the setting - the characters were well developed. It was mostly sad. But that's okay.

"The Old Guard, Book One: Open Fire": by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. Did you watch Old Guard, the netflix movie with the most beautiful woman in the world Charlize Theron? This is the graphic novel that it is based on. There was a couple of changes (more details on Andy, the Asian lady isn't in the book but there are others like her that they mention) but the movie stayed pretty close to the source material. I really liked it and am looking forward ot the next installment that comes out in September! Fun fact - the "is that your boyfriend?" scene in the kidnapper van? It's in the comic and the creators insisted that the scene be kept exactly the same as in the comic. Yay representation!

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Friday, October 9, 2020

Book Review: "Berlin Now: The City After the Wall" by Peter Schneider

I read many history books, a borderline obscene amount. But I completely own up to having a fair amount of gaps in that knowledge that need filled especially - things that aren't war related. I love books that tie to very specific places or time frames and this book is certainly that - the city of Berlin after the fall of the The Wall (which fell in November 1991). This is the second Berlin specific book I've read that I've really enjoyed, the other one is this one! I've got a special place in my heart for Berlin. The "dirty, sexy, cheap" city is expansive, vibrant and the two times I've been there I've always found myself wanting more time there. While reading this book I was browsing AirBnB listings which is...self cruelty right now. See you on the otherside of this shitshow, Berlin. Mwah! 

Let's talk about what's interesting in this book:

-You know how in NYC on New Year's Eve a bunch of people gather in Time Square for the ball drop but an actual New Yorker would rather die then do that?  In Berlin on New Year's the location is Brandenburg Gate but the people there are mostly Italian. 

- The club scene in Berlin has always been a no holds barred, judgement free, free for all. (I mean, "Cabaret" is in Berlin between the wars for a reason).Hemingway said that nightlife in Berlin was "sordid, vicious and desperate". And you know Hemingway wasn't one to shy away from shenanigans.  The current club scene involves not opening until midnight on Saturday and staying open until Tuesday morning. There's no "hey we can't sell booze after 2am so go home" because they can sell booze...whenever. It's also much cheaper than other big party capitals in the world. I have endless questions about this. Can I bring a change of clothes? I'm going to get sweaty if I'm dancing for 3 days. Are there snacks? Can I order food to get delivered to the club? Is there a place for me to power nap if I need it?

-The Berlin Wall came down, but, where did it go? There are pieces of the Berlin Wall in at least 125 locations around the world (when I say pieces I mean large chunks not paperweights) including on the campus of a Hawaiian' community college and at the country estate of a Cognac heiress. Most of it however, was reprocessed and was used to build highways in the former East Germany. 

- There has been some really disturbing behavior against immigrants to Berlin, especially if they are obviously non-European (aka African immigrants, Asian immigrants). From the government AND from Germans. Immigrants had their passports confiscated, put in barracks, and had up to 12% of their paycheck seized. There's been some incredibly violent outbursts against these groups too, including a group of armed Germans burning down a building that housed a hostel for Vietnamese contract workers. Or more than one incident about far-right groups going on the prowl with baseball bats "looking for black people to beat up". 

Germany (like so many other countries) needs to take a look at themselves and figure out what fundamental attitudes need to change to make a better Berlin and Germany. Germany isn't just for Hoffmanns and Wagners it's also for Nguyens and Alis. You know who had a huge hand in rebuilding Berlin after the war? Immigrants. You know how when you think about German food you think about spaetzle but also kebobs? Hmm, wonder why.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Quarantine Movie and TV Round Up

 I'm sure that I am not alone in the fact that there have been a lot of movies and tv watched while quarantine has happened. I'm a devout fan of going to the movies, but that obviously hasn't happened since....late February. So at home entertainment it is!


This might be a good time to reiterate that I am such a wuss and I hate being scared but I watch a ridiculous amount of horror movies. I can't explain it. But it has to be a particular type of horror movie. I don't generally do slasher/murder ones and I try to stay away from demon-y ones because homie don't play with that shit. Bye Exorcist, see you never!

Werewolf movies: There was a stretch of like a week and a half pretty early in quarantine where all I watched was werewolf movies on Shudder. Of course the OG, best werewolf movie of all time is "American Werewolf in London". Goes without saying. "Howl" was actually pretty entertaining, would recommend.

"Tigers Are Not Afraid": This was the actual reason I got a Shudder subscription for like a month. It's a movie about a group of orphaned children caught up in the Mexican drug war. It's a bit fairytale, a bit magical realism, and more than a bit of heartbreak. I thought it was really well done, and I think about it a lot. Also, female director.

"The Ritual": A friend group who is growing apart take a memorial camping trip in the Swedish wilderness. Things are already tense because of the circumstances but quickly come off the rails when a mysterious presence makes itself known, threw weird noises in the wilderness and even scarier homages found in an abandoned cabin. The reason I like this movie is the tension through the group of friends feels very real and pretty familiar. Also the design on the mysterious presence makes me really happy. 

"JoJo Rabbit": We laugh, we cry, we yell "Do you even speak German?!" across the house whenever we watch this Hoffmann family favorite. God, I love this movie soooo much.

"Bone Tomahawk": The first hour and half of this movie I'm like okay, this is a good western and I'm enjoying it but I don't know if I'd call it a "horror western" like people have said. Last 45 minutes of this movie OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THE GORE THE HORROR SHIT SHIT SHIT. Still, a pretty good movie. Great writing.

TV Shows

The Boys: If you watch the Marvel/DC movies but have questions about whether or not these superheroes are ACTUALLY a good idea...this show might be for you. I know that's why this show is for me. I am the Frenchie of my friend group. Without the cocaine habit. 

Fort Salem: Motherland: I need to make this clear - this show is TRASH. The idea is kind of interesting but it was obviously dumbed down to appeal to teenage girls at their lowest level. Like, maybe if you didn't write trash for teenage girls you'd be surprised that they would like it! Like, give them some credit. So, the basic idea of the show is that way way back in the pilgrim days there was an agreement between the early US government and witches that the government would stop persecuting them if the witches agreed to fight in the armed services. And basically draft their children. Forever. Premise is good, some fun world building, but poorly sketched out characters, some good diversity, and some very handsome but very dull boy characters. I binged a season in two days. I don't know what's wrong with me. 

Away: We are a very pro space program household so I wasn't surprised when Josh turned on this Netflix show. He's way more into it than I am. I do appreciate the mental toll that space travel takes. It's not a walk in the park up there. It actually sounds pretty unpleasant as a whole. I've also watched the Challenger documentary twice now.

horror movies Memes & GIFs - Imgflip

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Book review: "Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That A Movement Forgot" by Mikki Kendall

 We selected this book for our department's Feminist Book Club at work, and I'm so glad that we did!

The rub is (as my friend Maggie and I have discussed a few times) the more you learn about all of the injustices in the world the more that it feels like there's just an endless pile of societal shit and all we have to make a difference is a shovel the size of a toothpick. If anyone has any good tips on how to try to make a difference when you feel like you are drowning in the shit pile I will gladly take them!

In this book, Mikki says that the feminist movement has left behind poor women and women of color.

When white women are striving for CEO positions and that corner office, women of color are trying to not be discriminated against because of their hair or having a "weird" name, two things that could prevent them from getting jobs or even callbacks for interviews. 

Black children and teens are more than 4 times more likely to be killed with guns than white children. There are efforts to reduce gun violence, but they are oddly leaving out women. You might be thinking, how is gun violence a feminist issue? Well, black women experience the highest rate of gun homicide than any other group of women. Black women are also far more likely than black men to be killed by a spouse, family member, or an intimate acquaintance than by a stranger. The book also led me to the story of Rekia Boyd, a woman who was shot, doing nothing, by a police officer who was off duty and fired his gun over his shoulder as he was driving away. Don't worry he went to prison for a long time OH WAIT NO HE DIDN'T.

There's a whole section about childhood obesity and how there's lots of of pushes against that (which, like great) but if we dig a little deeper to the roots of the problem we might be able to make more change. (Some people don't have access to clean drinking water, but a bottle of Sprite doesn't need to be refrigerated - good if you don't have a kitchen, takes a long time to expire - which is good if you are trying to stretch your dollar, and costs....probably less than a dollar). Speaking of food - 40% of SNAP recipients are already working. 

Between 40 and 60 percent of black girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. I don't know the statistics on white women but I bet it's considerably less.One in three Indigenous women will be victims of sexual assault. Trans women are also much more likely to be victims of sexual crimes. 40% have trans folks have attempted suicide.

This was a quote that I thought was beautifully written: "Poverty is an apocalypse in slow motion, inexorable and generational". 

This was not always and easy book to read, but I learned a lot and am excited to discuss it with the women in my book club!


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Book review: "The White Man's Guide to White Male Writer's of the Western Canon" by Dana Schwartz

 This book was written by Dana Schwartz, I know her from being the voice on one of my favorite podcasts, Noble Blood. Others might know her as @GuyinYourMFA from twitter, where Dana pretends to be that dude that so many advanced English classes have - the chain smoking, coffee guzzling, self righteous, arrogant, pain in the ass who thinks he knows better than everyone including the teacher. 

The book was written in the style of the Guy in Your MFA, which got a little old at times, but there was some legit good information in there!

  • Maybe you have heard that when John Milton went blind he had his daughters read to him in Greek and Latin. That's true. What people don't know is that they didn't understand Greek or Latin. He just taught them how to read it. Which means they spent hours reading things outloud they didn't understand. Because Milton thought it was kinda a waste of time to educate them.
  • Charles Dicken's family members gave him the nickname "Boz"
  • On his wedding night Tolstoy gave his brand new wife a written accounting of every sexual encounter he'd had. Including impregnating a family serf with a child he never saw or supported
  • A TON of Faulkner's titles came from Shakespeare (To Die, To Sleep - Hamlet, The Wild and Wasteful & Crispin Crispian - Henry V, Kill the Envious Moon - Romeo and Juliet
  • Nabokov's rich Russian emigre father was killed by an English monarchist, kind of on accident 
  • JD Salinger met and became friends with Hemingway during WWII. JD also fought in D-Day AND the Battle of the Bulge.

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Monday, August 31, 2020

Book Review: "Big Friendships: How We Keep Each Other Close" by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

 Amintaou and Ann are friends who have a podcast together, Call Your Girlfriend, which I honestly had't heard of before I picked up this book. This book talks about their friendship in particular, but also how we treat friendships, the effort that they take, and how friendships are unique against other relationships in our lives.

A point that they made which I thought was super interesting was that while there is a lot of research about romantic relationships and familial relationships there is far less research done about friendships. Which on the surface makes sense because if you have a friend breakup odds are that you don't have to disentangle your finances, figure out joint holidays, childcare or other things that are associated with familial or romantic relationships. However, anyone who has been through a friend breakup knows that it can be just as devastating as a romantic breakup, even if society doesn't weigh them in a similar way. The fear of abandonment that exists in friendship doesn't necessarily exist in other relationships when you are linked together through marriage or blood.

A&A also invented the "Shine Theory" which is basically that we all "shine" more when we all shine. Supportive friendships mean that we make more room at the table for people, we amplify each other's voices, and don't worry about "well if they have success does that mean I am a failure?". A win for one feels like a win for everyone. 

They cite a study (by Dunbar) that says that the average person's emotional connections max out at 150. "5 people who are extremely close to them...15 who are in regular contact with them and emotionally crucial, about 50 who are strongly and emotionally connected to them and 80 who are slightly less connected but still a strong and important presence in their lives".  This made me laugh because one of my 5's husbands said that he doesn't need more than 5 friends ever and it's become a bit of a joke in our group. Like "if I do that will get kicked out of your 5?" 

There was a quote that they reference, from the mutual friend who introduced them that I thought was lovely: "There's a kind of sonar with friendship. You're bouncing your personality off things and people so it's reflected back to you. Good friendships produce true knowledge about yourself, even just subliminally."

May we all be so lucky to have 1 friend (or 5 if we are really lucky!) to help show us our true selves (good and bad). 


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Book review: "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" by Ross King

You know how sometimes you look at something and go "man, I bet that was a massive pain in the ass to do" ? The Sistine Chapel is like the Grand Poobah of those things.

This book had a lot of interesting facts but was pretty dry and read reeeeaaally slowly so I have tried to pull out the fun facts here.
  • The Sistine Chapel was built to the same dimensions as Solomon's temple. It's three times as long as it is wide!
  • When artists like Michelangelo would plan their pieces they would do them on large pieces of paper called cartone which is where we get our word for cartoon!
  • The pope during this time was Julius II who was called the Warrior Pope because he was stirring up all kinds of trouble because he wanted a bunch of land that wasn't the church's and he did literally everything for his own glory and sounded like a jackass and not a good pope. They butted heads a lot, mostly because he didn't pay Michelangelo on time.
  • One of Michelangelo's most ambitious unrealized projects was a bridge that would go over the Bosporus river and connect Europe and Asia which was an idea he got from Da Vinci. He drew up some plans but it never happened. HOWEVER in 2001 a Norwegian architect used the same plans on a Norwegian motorway which is SO COOL.
  • Michelangelo featured some of Jesus' lesser known ancestors on the ceiling, which was a uncommon subject matter at the time
  • The legend that Michelangelo painted the whole thing on his back is untrue. Though he did have to design scaffolding specifically for this job and it did involve some reclining. 
So, like I said before the content was good but it was a little dry, so 2.5 stars?